Its journey through accelerators, mutual funds, startup competitions –like BBVA Open Talent 2014, where it was the project that received the most votes– is one example of the development that Mexican startups have to go through to successfully complete an innovative process, in this case in the education sector.
Two young men started with an idea in 2009 and 2010, when they studied at the National Polytechnic Institute and Valle de México University. They had to hand in tasks and works at school, which they developed online using various applications.
Frustrated like other millennials by the flat, boring and non-interactive interfaces of these school applications, they designed an application with which they took part in the innovation program of Mexico City in 2010 and got into the Wayra accelerator.
“With Wayra, we made more use of its capabilities as an accelerator than as an incubator and we were the first generation, it was our first support for developing Cursa.me, where we do the work on the platform to design a management program for delivering school classes”, explained Rogelio Apiquian, co-founder of Cursa.me.
Cursa.me is a complete system which a teacher can use to set up a course, leave tasks and make questionnaires. It is also a social network. “The student and the teacher have a kind of interaction where the teacher does not only ask questions and the student answers”.
“It is a learning network where the students help each other and the teacher is not always logged in. They share questions and answers, material is provided on the wall, activities are carried out and pending issues are resolved. It also helps teachers fine-tune their classes, choosing material and ultimately generating a virtuous circle in the learning community.”
In 2011 the company was set up and the platform's development began. The first investment came in 2012, opening the platform to public schools. “Since then, we have worked with the Ministry of Public Education (SEP) to open up the platform at no cost and this has enabled us to grow to 150 users. There are also 132 institutions that participate with us, as well as the SEP's entrepreneur network, that uses the platform for communication and training”, added Apiquian.
Last year, Cursa.me grew because its cost is very accessible —from 25,000 to 30,000 pesos per institution— and this is how they are hoping to bring it to the mass market. There is no limit on users or contents, which makes it very attractive for schools. This year they established contact in Spain and reached an agreement for its distribution and growth in Europe.
The entrepreneur explained that the greatest problem they have faced was changing the way education is provided to the students. Cursa.me can be used to set up a complete online school and also to support the traditional system. “In other countries there are many platforms that are exploited. They serve to connect content that enriches education and are not only an alternative to books or materials. And we can link this entire universe to the Cursa.me platform", explained Rogelio Apiquian.
“The educational model has changed and we need to train the students so they research, contribute and work as a team. There are companies today that use a platform to train and work as a team. Today they look for other skills to work in a company”.
How to compete with other offerings
The entrepreneur explained that compared with other offerings on the market, Cursa.me is inexpensive and connects content. They are starting to develop a model of sponsors where the institutions do not pay, but rather education companies act as sponsors to offer the platform at no cost.
This is why the platform wants to give companies the opportunity to contribute content, for example, in the financial sector, which could provide a course on finance that would be offered to all institutions.
“We want to trigger growth, to work to connect content alliances at university level. We want the platform to be used right at elementary education, which is now difficult due to the existing structure. One example is the agreement we have with a school for fourth to sixth grades of elementary education, which has worked very well. We want to permeate children with this new way of learning”, concluded the entrepreneur.